Ram’s Horn celebrates 50 years of good food, better service, being part of community

By: Joshua Gordon | C&G Newspapers | Published September 26, 2017

 The Ram’s Horn restaurant on Hoover Road in Warren is the latest corporate-owned location to open, bringing the Kasapis family to five that they run out of the 16 current restaurants.

The Ram’s Horn restaurant on Hoover Road in Warren is the latest corporate-owned location to open, bringing the Kasapis family to five that they run out of the 16 current restaurants.

Photo by Deb Jacques

FRASER — The restaurant business is, and has always been, a family business for Eugene Kasapis.

Throughout high school, he worked in his dad’s restaurant in Greektown alongside his brothers Steve and Gus Kasapis. And three months before graduating, he and his brothers opened up their own restaurant in downtown Detroit.

Now, Kasapis is celebrating 50 years with Ram’s Horn. The franchise has had locations in nearly every community in metro Detroit over the decades. His children, Eugene J. Kasapis Jr. and Kristy Kasapis Panos, have worked alongside him. 

Ram’s Horn has weathered three economic recessions, the emergence of “foodies” and the expansion with franchisees to still be serving quality food, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And that is all because of the hard work his family continues to put in every day.

“We like it. It is challenging and fun,” Kasapis said. “We have a menu that caters to everybody, to the foodies and the millennials. We try to be innovative, and we aren’t afraid to step in and try something new.”

Kasapis’ father owned and operated a restaurant for 30 years before he and his brothers started running Receiving Lunch in 1962 across the street from Receiving Hospital in Detroit. Five years later, the first Ram’s Horn opened in Cadillac Square downtown.

That happened to come right after the 1967 riots, but the brothers weren’t about to let the unrest deter their goal.

“It was a little rough, but we survived it and stayed there,” Kasapis said. “Fifty years ago, that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to work. Our dream was to open up a nicer, fancier restaurant that was more modern and more up-to-date, and that is how Ram’s Horn was born.”

While Ram’s Horn was a dream, the name wasn’t one that the family had written down for years waiting to open. Rather, Kasapis said, he and his wife were just looking through travel books looking for a name that would have national appeal.

The name, he said, was part of the brand and needed to appeal to locals and people traveling through the area. That’s all there is to the story, he said, even if his kids think there is more to the name.

“They said they were just looking at books and came up with the name, but I still don’t believe them,” Kasapis Panos said. “I was like, ‘That’s it!’ There has to be more to the name, but they have stuck to that story.”

The second Ram’s Horn opened in 1968 in Livonia, and the third followed in 1970 at Dequindre and 13 Mile Road in Warren — now the longest-operating Ram’s Horn in metro Detroit.

With Detroit, and the west side and east side suburbs now covered, Kasapis started franchising the restaurant in 1974.

The plan was always to franchise, Kasapis said. And at its peak, there were around 40 Ram’s Horn restaurants open in the area, with about 40 percent of them run by the family.

But, the company wasn’t immune to a recession, and as the economy took negative turns in the 70s, 80s and 2000s, Ram’s Horn had to adjust. Restaurants closed if they weren’t working, and now there are 16 restaurants, five of which are corporate owned.

However, Kasapis said it was sticking with family, and even extended family in the form of employees, that kept Ram’s Horn around through tough times.

“We have had the ups and downs, but we have been through them and survived,” he said. “As we grew, we grew from within with our people. Even today, we have people who started out as busboys or dishwashers or cooks and grew into the business and eventually got their own restaurant or partnered with us.

“We did whatever we could to make that growth happen.”

In 1997, the newest Ram’s Horn was opened in Westland by Kasapis’ kids. Kasapis Jr. and Kasapis Panos partnered to begin operations on Wayne Road, and that restaurant is still going strong today, they said.

Kasapis Jr. started peeling potatoes at the age of 12 at the Dequindre Road restaurant and said he would often be dropped off by his dad to bus tables. Similarly, Kasapis Panos started at the same location as a hostess.

“I enjoy it. It is in my blood now,” Kasapis Jr. said. “I have to do something productive and work-related every day now.”

The two like to bounce ideas off each other to create new menu items. Sometimes they are hits and sometimes customers aren’t sure what to make of it, such as Kasapis Jr.’s poblano pepper mayo, he joked.

It’s not a job for everyone, Kasapis Panos said, but one she and her brother were born into.

“It is a constant challenge, and not one day to the next day is the same,” she said. “You have to be a people person. It is a high-energy job and you need that self motivation to get through some of the tougher days. But, every day I leave, I do feel like I have accomplished something.”

After 50 years, Ram’s Horn still prides itself on its food. People may not think of Ram’s Head when they think of quality food, Kasapis Panos said, but the food is made in-house with fresh ingredients.

Kasapis said they keep up with what is popular in the food industry and try to incorporate what they can. They also make sure to remodel and update restaurants about every four years so the dining rooms don’t feel dated.

The family is open to bringing on more franchisees and opening more restaurants. Potentially, they could be further west near Howell and Brighton.

Until then, Kasapis said they will continue to provide top-notch service and be a place where anyone in the family can find something to enjoy.

“We cater to the people, and we have been doing it so long, it comes easy to us,” he said. “We want to build more Horns and we will just keep going.”